While a debate continues to rage in political circles, in scientific circles there is little question that climate change is occurring and that human activities are a major cause of the problem. Despite that certainty, solutions to combat and reverse these changes are not always obvious.
“Most of the solutions you hear about are really efforts to harm the environment more slowly than we have been [doing] in the past century,” said Dr. Andrew Jorgensen, UT professor of chemistry.
Jorgensen studied climate change during a recent sabbatical in Washington, D.C., where he took the lead in preparing a grant proposal for members of the Council of Environmental Deans and Directors of the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) to create a global online community, providing information and resources to faculty members teaching various aspects of climate change.
The National Science Foundation funded $1.7 million over three years for a nationwide cyber-enabled learning community for solutions to climate change, dubbed CAMEL (Climate, Adaption and Mitigation e-Learning).
“The impacts of climate change are incredibly interdisciplinary,” Jorgensen said. “Certainly the natural sciences play a key role, but also sociology, economics, political science, law and the humanities as you look at ethical implications of climate change.”
Since no single faculty member can be an expert in all these areas, there is a natural demand among professors for teaching materials in their non-specialty areas, Jorgensen said.
CAMEL will utilize NCSE’s Web-based information sharing platform, the Encyclopedia of the Earth (www.eoearth.org) and dedicated Web portals created for this purpose.
Content would include video clips, digital renderings and models, articles and other materials to help faculty “prepare the next generation of citizens for a set of environmental and societal issues that will really be theirs to deal with,” Jorgensen said.
He said his sabbatical opened many opportunities for him that not only strengthened his knowledge of climate change but also facilitated the start of a process that will allow him and others associated with NCSE to address the issues through education. An earlier grant of $180,000 grant from NASA allowed the team to begin their work
“Climate change is so much more complicated than I could have imagined,” Jorgensen said. “The consequences are very uneven, depending on geography and societal factors, and people’s understanding of the dangers of climate change can vary greatly depending on your point of view.
“But during my time in Washington, I was able to go hear leaders in the field, including the president’s science adviser, and to be a part of a broad community dedicated to the study of environmental issues,” he said. “It gave me a much deeper appreciation for what will be needed for the global community to slow and combat a problem my children and grandchildren will ultimately be left to confront.”